Weeping in the New Year

BA2274-001“Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:9).

While millions partied and puked the New Year in, I slept.  But going to bed at a normal hour was not the only thing I did to ring in 2011.  In recent weeks, I have been weeping and praying for God to move in great power in my own heart, and the in the hearts of others in my church and community to reverse the wretched condition of our souls.

Now, if weeping and mourning does not sound like anything you’re interested in, if you claim the name of Christ, you had better reconsider.  Isaiah foretold Jesus would be a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”  How sadly ironic, then, that those of us who say we’re His followers are given to doing everything possible to avoid sorrow and grief.  Why, we do not even grieve over our own sins.  Instead, we flaunt them on facebook.

I cannot help but wonder what a Youth Ministry that truly understood the gravity of sin would look like.  Would games, activities, and super team-building object lessons still have prominence?  Or, would teens be meeting together to weep and pray for revival together on their knees, confessing their sins to one another and begging for some genuine accountability in their lives?

Fun and games.  Smiles and laughter.  Nothing wrong with them in their time and place, but friends, this is what the church and her ministries now center on and relish above all else!  Meanwhile, neighbors and friends plunge into hell every day.  People starve.  War rages.  Sin is promoted in governments and in school houses.

So, in 2011, what will make you weep?  What will finally bring you to obey James 4:9 on your knees?

There are many things over which I weep, but in the weeks ahead I want to hone in on one BIGGIE – the ongoing indoctrination of thousands of young students in the Satanic lies of the religion known variously as Darwinism, Atheistic evolution, naturalism or materialism.  Whatever the label, the source remains the same – the Father of Lies (John 8:44).

Darwinian evolution is not science.  It is a religion, dare I say a cult.  It is atheism.  It is faith in naturalism.  I shall in weeks ahead offer words from the mouths of Darwinists themselves (and Darwin himself) to prove my assertion.  But for now, let me begin by quoting from an 8th grade public school textbook titled Science Explorer  (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005).

Chapter 1 “Scientific Inquiry” lays the foundations:

“Scientific inquiry refers to the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence they gather” (p. 6, emphasis original).

“In science, a hypothesis must be testable” (p. 7, emphasis original).

So, I understand from this that science deals in evidence and in testable propositions.  Fair enough.

Fast forward to Chapter 8 “A Trip Through Geologic Time.”  Section 5, “Early Earth” states:

Scientists hypothesize that Earth formed at the same time as the other planets and the sun, roughly 4.6 billion years ago” (p. 338, emphasis original).

Wait a minute!  Time out!  How is it that scientists “hypothesize” about something that is not testable?!?  On page 7 this science text flatly stated a hypothesis must be “testable.”  Therefore, the claim that the earth is 4.6 billion years old, or got its start “roughly 4.6 billion years ago” is not a hypothesisIt is an anti-hypothesisWhat scientist was around 4 billion years ago to put this assertion to the test?

If this is the best “science” we have to offer our kids, then is it any wonder our students simply cannot compete in the global markets?  This is not science.  This textbook has just violated the law of non-contradiction (do they still teach logic in schools?).  This is senseless.  Absolute non-sense.

Funny, the statement about the earth’s age is not even a true hypothesis!  It is simply an opinionated sentence.  And, tragically, it is a false sentence.  It is a lie, and it came from the “father of lies.”

Oh, but this is just the tip of the iceberg in this so-called science textbook.  Stay tuned . . . we’re just getting started.

For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them (Exodus 20:11).

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Read a Book in 2011

Jesus said the greatest commandment we could possibly endeavor to obey is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt 22:36, emphasis mine).

Loving God with our minds surely means engaging our minds in the things of God.  Thinking about God involves us in the highest of activities.  And surely we cannot think of God at all properly apart from His revealed Word. 

Reading God’s Word (the Bible) is the paramount way to love Him with our minds; for where the Bible speaks, God speaks.  There simply is no subsititue for daily reading and meditating and praying and thinking on God’s Holy Word.  When we take up this task, the Lord meets with us, engages our heart strings, and powerfully impacts our souls.  It seems we human creatures must first get something into our heads before it has any hope of sinking deeply into our hearts and souls.  So dear readers, in 2011, I urge you to resolve to spend more time in the Bible than ever before.  You are reading through the Bible this year, aren’t you?

Assuming your Bible reading is vibrant, then may I also recommend a few books for you in 2011?  Reading gospel-centered books is yet another way to love the Lord with our minds.  In 2010, I read about 42 books, give or take.  From those 42, I want to commend these to you in 2011:

Marriage/Parenting/Family       

Family-Driven Faith – Voddie Baucham

Biblical Manhood

The Masculine Mandate – Richard D. Phillips

Doctrine / Theology 

What is the Gospel?  Greg Gilbert; The Cross-Centered Life – C. J. Mahaney 

Personal Evangelism

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism – Mark Dever; Evangelism and the Sovereingty of God – J. I. Packer

Personal Devotion 

Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross – Ed. Nancy Guthrie; Radical – David Platt; The Red Feather – Tom Ellif

Apologetics

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist – Normal Geisler & Frank Turek; Why Pro-Life? Randy Alcorn; Grave Influence – Brannon Howse

For Preachers

The Priority of Preaching – Christopher Ash; Spirit-Led Preaching – Greg Heisler

May the New Year find you loving King Jesus with all your mind.

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The Gift of Christmas

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).

“For to us a child is born, and to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5-6, emphasis mine).

As I drove I-75 and then I-40 returning from visiting family recently in Kentucky, I reflected on two questions:

  1. What is the Gift of Christmas?
  2. What does the giving of this Gift say to us?

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving gifts.  Few in the Christian or non-Christian realms would disagree.  But perhaps it escapes some as to why we give gifts during this holiday.  More tragically, far too many fail to ponder the true Gift of Christmas. 

Humanly speaking, we often assume the nature of a gift says something of the value or worth of the gift recipient, at least in the eyes of the gift-giver.  In other words, if I give someone an extravagant (either financially or otherwise) gift, it means I think they are worthy of whatever the gift cost me.  I sacrificed because I valued the recipient.  And, it is expected that the recipient would respond to me with gratitude.

But what of God and Christmas?  First, what is the gift of Christmas?  Isaiah prophesied of the Gift of a Son 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus.  This son would not be ordinary by any stretch.  This Son would be none other than the “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.”  So, for 700 years, all who had been given spiritual eyes to see were looking for God to come as a son, a ruler, a king on earth!

But Isaiah was merely echoing Moses, and Moses was merely reporting on God’s promise made all the way back in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15).  God declared war on Satan and sin after Adam’s trangression.  God promised to fight and win this war, to crush Satan’s head, and He said He would do so through a child (offspring or seed) of Eve.  What?  A human baby would conquer Satan and sin?  Yes, He would, and He has (Gal 3:15-29).  This He could do because His humanity served to conceal, as it were, His majesty

As the story of redemption unfolds in the Bible, it becomes clear that the promised “seed” is Jesus, and Jesus is no ordinary baby boy.  He is the “Word made flesh” who made the worlds and had glory as God before the worlds existed (John 1).  He is Immanuel.  God with us.  Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).  Jesus – God in the flesh – He is the Gift of Christmas.

And wow, what a Gift!  Jesus is the greatest gift the universe had to offer, and Father God gave Him up for wretched sinners like you and me.  We cannot even dream up a more extravagant Gift than the grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  This “inexpressible gift” comes to us by the hearing of the gospel – the mesage that Holy God has made a way for unholy sinners to be reconciled to Himself through the person and bloody cross-work of His Son, Jesus. 

Typically, a costly, extravagant gift speaks to the value of the recipient.  But we must approach with caution if we attempt to apply the same logic to the Gift of gifts – the Son of the living God.  So, what does the giving of Jesus say to us?  Let me offer a few thoughts that I pray spur you to deeper reflection this week.  God giving the Gift of gifts, Jesus, says . . .

  • God loves sinners.  While I do not think this is the primary lesson of Christmas, I cannot escape John 3:16, nor do I wish to!  When the Bible speaks of God’s holy hatred towards evildoers (Psalm 5:5), I can easily understand.  But friends, I shall never grasp why God also chooses to set His love on sinners.  God so loved . . . that He gave.  He gave the Gift of gifts.  Clearly, the Lord does value His human creatures, His image-bearers, and His love proves intensely personal and worship-inducing to those of us who have been wooed to faith in Christ by His amazing merciful Spirit.  Christmas is expressed succinctly in Romans 5:8, isn’t it?
  • We need a Savior.  We need a Substitute, a Redeemer, a Divinely-initiated atonement, a Mediator, a King.  You and I are fallen sinful people.  If this is not so, then the giving of Jesus was the most absurd and useless act in all of history.  God sending Jesus, the Treasure of treasures, makes no sense at all; that is unless we are truly “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1) and helpless to stand justified before Holy God on our own two feet (Psalm 130:3).  God gave Jesus because we need Him!
  • God takes sin seriously.  Jesus was not sent to live in the lap of luxury.  Oh no, Jesus was given as the One and Only perfect Law-Keeper, the Wrath-bearing Redeemer of sinners.  Jesus was crushed for our sins.  God gave His Son to drink from the cup of His wrath, instead of visiting our filth on our own heads.  Were God not absolutely, severely and inflexibly holy, Jesus would not have had to come and die on a tree between two hated criminals.  But, God is holy.  His holiness demands all sins be punished.  And all will be punished.  For those God saves, their sins were punished in the body of Christ on the cross, and God’s wrath was fully satisfied there (Rom 8:1; 1 Peter 2:24).  For those who do not repent and trust in the righteousness of Christ, God’s wrath will fall on them forever (2 Thess 1:5-11).  The Gift of Jesus says God is holy and serious about sin.
  • Jesus is risen from the dead and lives forever to save His people from their sins.  Isn’t it ironic how many people get enamored with the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger?  Yet, these same people gag at the thought of the bloody, battered Jesus hanging on the cross because of how much God truly hates the sin in their hearts and lives.  Even more revealing is how many of these same people who put up manger scenes at Christmas really do not believe Jesus rose from the dead.  But friends, if Jesus did not rise, Christmas is not worthy of ever mentioning again (1 Cor 15).  But, because this Son that was given was indeed “Almighty God,” the grave was helpless to hold Him.  Thus, our final enemy as mortal sinners has been crushed by this “seed of Eve.”
  • God is forever determined to see His Son, the Gift of gifts, exalted and praised and adored and worshipped as the Sovereign Lord and King (Col 1:18).  This is why God planned in eternity past to give this Gift (Eph 1).  God has always purposed to see Jesus have “preeminence in all things” (Col 1:18).  God will not be denied!  He will get glory by saving sinners through the life, death and resurrection of His Son.  This is where the rubber meets the road for Christmas.  The Gift was given to ensure “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).

Here’s praying God grants you grace to receive the Gift of Christmas, the Life of Christmas, the Treasure of all treasures.  His name is Jesus.  God gave Him for wretches like me, not because I am worthy, but in order to reveal to me how vastly and immeasurably worthy He is and ever shall be.  “He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12). 

I love you Jesus, and only because You first loved me (1 John 4:10). 

Merry Christmas!

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No Need to Ask, They’re Bold To Tell

Top story on the evening news tonight (NBC) was the inevitable repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for our military.  That policy states, in essence and to my understanding, two things:

  1. That the sexuality of military members should not be investigated without good reason.
  2. So long as military members do not openly flaunt their homosexuality, they will not be forced out of the service.  

I was in the Marine Corps when DADT became law.  To be honest, I thought it was an inherently flawed policy to begin with, and upon reflection now, I believe it was intentionally flawed by its framers.  DADT essentially made it legal to be participating in homosexual activity while in the military, so long as it all stayed “in the closet.”  The policy gave tacit approval to the gay and lesbian lifestyle.  After all, if the activity is harmful to the military, then it should not be permitted, period.  What does the activity’s openness or hiddenness matter? 

Either homosexuality is harmful or it’s not.  Either it’s immoral or it’s not.

So, hindsight being what it is, it now seems obvious that DADT was merely a precursor to its own repeal.  It “softened hearts and minds,” to use military jargon, to the idea of homosexuality not being such a big deal after all.  I mean, we all knew there were practicing homosexuals serving in our ranks “out there somewhere.”  It didn’t seem to bother many people, which is precisely what DADT was designed to do – make it all seem so harmless.  

A report from the Pentagon released recently supports the repeal of DADT.  The curtain of secrecy will now be removed when it comes to military members’ sexual lifestyles and choices.  I guess compared to DADT, the “open policy” is worse, but we’ve been on this slippery slope for decades now, haven’t we?

Even if we did not have a word from God in this matter, the utter lack of logic underlying the arguments for repealing DADT is perplexing.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), to my knowledge, still lists adultery as a punishable crime

So let me get this straight (pun intended), a Marine can receive stiff punishment, including forced removal from the service, for having sex with a woman who is not his wife; but if he has sex with a man, all is well. 

What if a Marine commits adultery against his wife with a man?  Is it still adultery?  Or is it now OK because it was a homosexual relation? 

Friends, moral relativism / insanity is not pretty.  It leads to even more insanity.  If we think gay/lesbian sex is not immoral now for military members, and is not at all detrimental to military order, discipline and morale, then why do we think adultery is immoral and harmful?  Why do we draw any lines at all?  Why not allow our military men and women to live in any way they so choose?  Why bother recruiting young men of character?  What is character anyway, except some cultural construction? 

The Nazis of WWII Germany said they were recruiting and training young men of character, too, you know!

When polled a majority of military members said they supported the repeal of DADT.  Our military is a micro-cosm of our relativistic culture, so no surprises there.  These young troops are products of the governmental educational machine, which continues to crank out secular humanists and ethical relativists as fast as it can go. 

Oddly enough, however, a majority of those Army and Marine troops currently in Afghanistan favored keeping DADT in place!  It seems when the bullets start flying, character and morality still matter.  Relativism simply does not work in the real world, and it can never be held consistently by anyone with a modicum of common sense. 

America – welcome to this new world.  Do you feel safer now that men who want to be women are defending you?  Do the spineless Pentagon Generals who lead our troops inspire you?  In the Bible, it is a sign of God’s judgment when women are fighting wars for Israel.  I wonder what it is a sign of when men who behave sexually as women are fighting our wars? 

Christian soliders, airmen, sailors, Marines and coastguardsmen, you had better rise up quickly against this groundswell of spitting in God’s face!  Remind yourselves that the Lord pronounces condemnation not only on those who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, but also on “them who give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).  Rise up and make your voices heard to your cowardly leaders.  Your first loyalty is to King Jesus, the Captain of the Lord’s Army!  Rise up like Jesus and tell lost sinners of every ilk, that “unless you repent you will all likewise die” (Luke 13:3).

It is not my intent to pick on those who are living in the bondage of homosexual sin, or be mean-spirited.  It is because I love all people that I must proclaim God’s truth which can set them free.  But friends, I (and those who love and treasure Christ and His Word above all) did not pick this fight.  This fight has been brought to us by politicians, special interest groups, and PC leaders intent on ruining our nation.  If you think I am being overly-dramatic, read your Bibles.  Nations that systematically promote and flaunt sin do not escape God’s wrath.

No sin is truly hidden, for our God sees all (Heb 4:13).  And no sin is neutral or harmless.  Sin ruins the sinner, and will also take down entire nations. 

America, we stand on the precipice of becoming a full-fledged nation that “rages against God and His Christ” (Psalm 2:2).  That never ends well – “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).

Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who claim the Name of Christ, don’t say you were not warned.

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Amy Warren - Excellent insights. Looking forward to reading more.

tlbcassocpastor - Glad you’re enjoying it, Amy. I’ll crank back up after Christmas vacation!

Give Thanks

During this week that we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, may I encourage parents to spend a few moments teaching your children of the history of the holiday.  This is easily accomplished via a Google search of the Plymouth Colony.  Quite frankly, the Charlie Brown special aired a few nights ago is pretty good, too!

Most importantly, however, is to direct your own hearts and minds, and that of your family, to the greatness of Almighty God.  As you sit around your tables Thursday and fare sumptuously, pose these questions to your children:

  1. What do you have that you did not receive?  1 Cor 4:7
  2. What can you do without Christ?  John 15:5
  3. Why have you been able to hear and understand the gospel?  Matthew 13:10-17
  4. Why do American prison inmates have more religious freedoms than “free” citizens of China?  Daniel 4:28-37 

These “discussion starters” will go a long way towards cultivating a heart of gratitude in your family. 

One final recommendation: Consider reading David’s Song of Thanks with your family this Thanksgiving, as it has been recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:7-36

You and I can never do better than to recite the very words of our God. 

Give thanks, O saints of God in Christ.  Give thanks, now and forever. 

“Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.  Blessed be the God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (1 Chron 16:35-36)

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